I owe three inspirational shout-outs for this story, two to writers I admire and wish I knew personally and one to an artist about whom I feel the same (who is, sadly, deceased, and thus far less likely to ever see this): first is Julia Elliott, whose sublime short story collection The Wilds features a woman who appears to have tree roots blasting out of her head on its cover. That image stuck with me as I was reading her incredible stories, and led me to the idea of writing about people who grow tree roots.
Second is Ramona Ausubel, whose story "Tributaries," in which people grow extra arms every time they fall in love, inspired the grief part--the "how" of that should be fairly obvious.
Third is a thanks to Pablo Picasso, who--according to the postcard I bought at his museum in Barcelona (the only souvenir I bought on that trip)--once said, "Bad artists borrow. Good artists steal." Without that oomph pushing me along, I probably would have thought I was borrowing too much from Elliott and Ausubel--so I gladly took what was theirs and made it mine (please don't sue, if you see this).
Thanks, Joe! Very interesting!